A-levels should be scrapped in favour of a “broader, richer” baccalaureate to better prepare students for life after school, the Department for Education’s former permanent secretary will say today. Sir David Bell, who is now vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, is to brand the current A-level system “out of date” and call for it to be replaced with one offering core specialist subjects, supplemented with numeracy, literacy, extended project work and “softer, non-cognitive skills”. He will make the recommendations in a speech at the Association for Science Education (ASE) annual conference at the University of Reading, in which he will also call for the DfE’s remit to be slimmed down “radically” and for the School Direct teacher training scheme to be formally reviewed after the general election. “Future generations will need retraining and education throughout their lives. A [baccalaureate] system sends out a clear message from preschool onwards that students must have a rounded education to equip them for this, with a wide range of skills on top of specialisms,” he will say. “A decade ago, ministers bottled creating such a system following the independent Tomlinson review because they were scared of being seen to be weak on standards. We cannot make the same mistake again.” Sir David, who is serving as ASE president for 2015, will also brand the decision by ministers to remove practical science from overall GCSE and A-level grades as a “dangerous experiment”.
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